Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote Yes on Michelle Obama

Happy Voting Day! How was your experience? No matter how good it was, it can't compare to the experience that these folks had: 

That is because they have the Most Amazing Marriage of All Time. 

I will be honest with you: I've liked Barack Obama since 2004. After his speech at the DNC that year, I, like many people, believed that he had the capacity to be a major figure in American politics - maybe even President. He had good politics, a clear vision, and a capacity for energizing people that I thought would be extremely valuable. I did not love Barack Obama, however, until I found out that he was married to Michelle. 

I know, I know: for most of this country's history, the most prominent political position available to women has been that of Lady Who Is Married to the Dude In Charge, and that is lame. Still, I think you can tell a lot about a person's character by who that person chooses to partner with and how they relate to each other, and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. You can definitely tell a lot about a man's relationship to feminism by watching how he relates to the women around him. John McCain called his wife a cunt; John McCain put air quotes around "women's health." These two incidents are not unrelated. As a feminist, I respected Barack Obama more, and was happier to support him, after learning about his relationship with Michelle, and with their daughters. 

Because Michelle Obama scares people. She's opinionated. She's accomplished. She's politically engaged. She's funny - and not in a broad, crowd-pleasing way, but in a deadpan, sarcastic way that can be cutting. She is most likely smarter than you. She's also a black woman, and she exists within a cultural context where all of these qualities are feared, demonized and suppressed in women (we're called "bitches") and black people (they're called "bitter" or "angry") and especially in black women (for God's sake, the Angela Davis thing). To fall in love with a woman like Michelle Obama, you have to fall in love, not only with these qualities, but with the sheer strength it must take for her to own them and wear them on her sleeve when every day, everywhere, everyone around her is pressuring her to shut up. You have to be one hell of a man to do that, or to earn that woman's love and respect. You have to be her equal. 

Which is a tough job, because look at how awesome this woman is: 
Of the Iowa State Fair's corn dogs and candied apples, obligingly gushed over by hopeful First Ladies every four years: "Stuff on a stick." Here's Obama, talking to me in her motorcade halfway between Sheboygan, Wisconsin and Green Bay about Obama Girl, the young woman who professed her crush on Obama's husband all over the internet: "That was a little weird, because, you know... I just assumed, you know, there's no way anybody's gonna hear about that. And one day Sasha comes home, and she's like, 'Daddy has a girlfriend. It's you, Mommy.' And it's, like, 'Oh, shhhhhhhhh -- yeah.'" Curse word averted, barely.
Traditionally, candidates' wives - including this year's alternate model, the hollow-eyed corpse of Betty Draper - speak of their husbands in reverential platitudes, rhapsodizing about their roles as perfectly submissive helpmeets to the Great Men and painting their relationships in sugary pastel tones that would ring false even if they hadn't been repeated a million times in other elections. Here is how Michelle Obama describes her position on her husband's campaign: 
Obama has been open about the value of her ability to speak to black audiences in cadences that reflect their experience, but she makes clear her distaste for the notion that she is a niche tool, wielded by her husband's campaign to woo black voters solely on the basis of their shared racial identity... "I mean, I've been to every early state," she told me... "I was 'deployed' to Iowa," she said, making air quotes with her fingers. "I was 'deployed' to New Hampshire."
So, Michelle Obama: invested in the campaign, committed to involving communities of color in the electoral process (her thesis, "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community," was about being assimilated into an overwhelmingly white establishment through education while being aware that, within that environment, she was treated as "black first and a student second" due to continuing institutional racism - BECAUSE SHE'S BRILLIANT) and not about to let herself be described as a passive tool of her husband's agenda or a person who can be exploited by the Democratic party on the basis of her race. 

So much for the helpmeet theory! How about their relationship? Surely she's deferential to the mighty Barack Obama: 
"We would have this running debate throughout our relationship about whether marriage was necessary," Obama told me. "It was sort of a bone of contention, because I was, like, 'Look, buddy, I'm not one of these types who'll just hang out forever.' You know, that's just not who I am. He was, like" - she broke into a wishy-washy voice - "'Marriage, it doesn't mean anything, it's really how you feel.' And I was like, 'Yeah, right.'"
So, let's pause for a moment. You are in a relationship with a really great guy, who you really like, and you end up having one of those Commitment Discussions, in which he takes the inevitable "but it doesn't meeeean anything, it's just a piece of paaaaaper" route, pursued by dudes all over the world since approximately forever. You know damn well it means something, because if it didn't, he wouldn't be freaking out about it. Still, you really, really like this guy - you wouldn't be having this discussion if you didn't - and breaking up with him would hurt like hell, but then again, so would staying in a relationship where the other person always has one foot out the door. Then AGAIN, his argument is insanely well-framed and persuasive, because he is BARACK FREAKING OBAMA FOR GOD'S SAKE, and can you even imagine having a Relationship Discussion with Barack Obama? By the end of it, you'd be sobbing with joy and chanting, "yes! I! Can! Take! Out! The garbage! You! Are! Tired!" So you look this man in the eye, and you say, with resounding conviction, "whatever, dude - get on the train before it leaves the station." 

How awesome is that? Please rate your answers on a scale from "one" to "Michelle Obama." 

Anyway, we all know how that turned out: 



So, long story short, he's probably going to be President. He deserves it. He deserves her, too. Which is saying something. 

1 comment:

  1. You know as much as she loves him, you can be damn certain that she reminds him how lucky he is to have her and rightfully so. I have been girl crushing on Michelle since almost the moment I laid eyes on her.